DAGUPAN, Pangasinan—Amidst flood and downpour in large part of Luzon, another Marian image in the Philippines was canonically crowned. As the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan celebrated its 90th founding anniversary last August 22, 2018, the image of Mary, Help of Christians, was crowned in the presence of a good number of archbishops and bishops, priests, religious, and the people of Pangasinan and other nearby provinces. Representing Pope Francis, His Excellency, Most Rev. Gabriele Giordano Caccia, DD, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, led the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Rite of Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The precious crown used in the coronation was not from a prominent family, but from the contributions from each faithful of the archdiocese as an act of gratitude to Mary.
The Image of Mary, Help of Christians
In his homily, the Nuncio shared with the faithful the story behind the arrival of the image of Mary, Help of Christians in Dagupan. The image was a gift by the then Apostolic Delegate, Most Rev. Guglielmo Piani, SDB, DD, to the first bishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Most Rev. Cesar Ma. Guerrero, DD, during the erection of the Diocese of Lingayen-Dagupan in the year 1928.
The image was with the diocese since it was established. Accordingly, like a mother is always with her children, Mary knew the faith that has been passed on to the people of God in the Diocese, now an Archdiocese, of Lingayen-Dagupan. As a mother, Mary accompanied the growth of the archdiocese and constantly guided her children, especially the seminarians in formation and the priests of the local church for she is their patroness.
Archbishop Caccia traced a special link in the celebration of the coronation of the image of Mary, Help of Christians in his life. His predecessor, Archbishop Piani, was born in a city near his birthplace. More than that, the Nuncio also shared with the faithful that he received his First Communion at the Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians, in Turin, Northern Italy. Given the honor to canonically crown Mary, he said that Mary is always present even in the most crucial part of our life. He further elaborated this and he said, Mary “is there when there is joy. She is there when there is suffering. She is there when we don’t understand […], and she is there when she gives us her precious treasure, her Son, as she holds Jesus in her heart and offers him for us.”
“Hold on tight to the Wood”
As the Nuncio continued with his homily, he shared a story of a mother with two little children. It was a real story of a mother who experienced flooding as they were living near a river. When the water from the river would rise, she knew that their house will be completely flooded. Seeing a big trunk of tree floating on the water, she told her children to “hold on tight to the wood.” And they were rescued and were saved.
Relating the story to the daily life of the faithful, there were other kinds of “flood” in life: floods of injustice, dishonesty, betrayal, falsehood, selfishness, and corruption. These “floods” grow and we may not be able to swim away from them. In these moments, the image of the mother would tell us to “hold on tight to the Wood—the wood of salvation, the wood of the cross.” Mary taught us to hold tight to and stay by the cross. On the cross, there is the King not seated on a throne in a palace, but is on the wood of the cross. Amidst the trials and tribulations in life, Christ is there. What we need to do is to hold on tight to Christ for He is our Savior.
The Queenship of Mary
The coronation day of the image of Mary, Help of Christians was also celebrated on the Feast of the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Relating the coronation of the image with the festivity, the Nuncio deepened his reflection on the queenship of Mary. “Where is the place of our Queen? If not where the King is, by the cross.”
After the homily, the rite of coronation followed. Four bishops carried the Papal Mandate of the Coronation from the Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; the canonical crowns of the infant Jesus and Mary; and the scepter of Mary. The scepter was placed on the hand of the image of Mary by Archbishop Socrates Villegas, DD, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan. He then crowned the image of the infant Jesus. Together with the Nuncio, Arch. Villegas put the canonical crown of Mary.
The Augustinian Recollects during the festivity
Together with the whole Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, some Augustinian Recollect friars joined the celebration. They were: Fray Dionisio Selma, OAR, Prior Provincial; Fray Jose Ernil Almayo, OAR, Provincial Secretary; Fray Jorge Peligro, OAR, Parish Priest of Recoletos de Tondo; and Fray Mark Ryan Prado, OAR, a missionary from Sierra Leone, West Africa. Also, the community of Recoletos de Urbistondo, led by the prior of the house, Fray Samsom Silloriquez, OAR, and his members, Fray Joseph Cyprian Panaligan, OAR, and Fray Jayferson Baldelovar, OAR, concelebrated in the celebration.